State aid: the Commission open an in-depth probe against Belgian and French ports

On January 2016 the Commission asked Belgium and France to abolish tax exemption for ports established by their national laws. Since both States involved did not follow such order, the Commission has decided to start an in-depth probe that will give the chance also to interested third parties to submit observations.

In Belgium most of the sea and inland waterway ports are subject to a special tax regime that makes their commercial activities subject to a lower imposition compared to other Belgian companies. Similarly in France, eleven “grands ports maritimes” benefit of a fully exemption from corporate income tax.

Those exemptions give Belgian and French ports selective advantage compared with their competitors in other Member States, which finally result in State aids violating EU legislation.

However, at the end of the probe, the Commission will not be able to ask Belgium and France to recover the aids, as they existed before the 1958.